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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Jim Santella Dead at 86

A legend of radio and co-founder of Theater Talk on WBFO


Two men at microphones in a radio studio
Jim Santella and Anthony Chase in the old WBFO studios at Allen Hall on the Main Street campus of UB

Jim Santella, a legend of radio and co-founder, with me, of the Theater Talk radio show on WBFO in 1992 has died. He was 86 years old.


Jim was a loyal friend and the mentor who taught me everything I know about radio. Indeed, he was a radio genius. Jim liked to say that if you asked him the time, he'd tell you how to make a watch. He was an excellent teacher.


He was always keen that we respect and envision our audience. Never talk down to them. Remember that they're driving their cars, or getting ready for work. We're in their car, in their kitchen, in their bathroom, in their bed.


In the early days of Theater Talk, I didn't really have much to do much, other than show up and talk. I'd watch while Jim did everything else. Gradually, Jim began to show me how to edit, how to adjust sound, and to teach me dozens of tricks he'd acquired over his decades in radio.


What I couldn't know what that Jim's eyesight was beginning to go and that he had Parkinson's disease. He was secretly preparing me for a time when he couldn't do the show anymore. When that time came, I was ready. I now edit and engineer the Theater Talk show alone, with Peter Hall as my co-host.


Jim was able to disguise that he was slowing down with his irrepressible wit and his uncanny talent for radio. He could map out our show in his head and stop at exactly four and a half minutes without looking at the clock. He was amazing in that way.


I was, of course, aware that Jim’s hearing was going. He’d ride the volume so high that my ears couldn’t take it. Notice in the photo of us that I have one ear free. To this day, I am the only person in radio who records without headphones.


Over these many years, I have never made a decision about Theater Talk without him. I guess, now, I am truly on my own.


His wife, Mary Lou, kindly kept me informed of Jim's declining health, but I realize now, I never truly believed that he would leave us for good. As I write this, I think of him as always there when I needed him. I still recall our last phone conversation when Jim was still teaching me and advising me about radio. I listened intently, and I cherish every word.


Good bye, Jim. May you live for eternity in the airwaves of heaven.

2 Comments


Nancy Logan
Nancy Logan
May 12

Such a special man and talent who touched so many lives. He will always be in our hearts and fond memories.

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David Benders
David Benders
May 11

Tony: >I never truly believed that he would leave us for good. As I write this, I think of him as always >there when I needed him. And I believe that is still true and will be true for a long long time ...Thank you.

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